Spring Cleaning the Mind: Our Thoughts

This blogpost is an excerpt of the content of Episode 4 of Season 5 of the Written. Spoken. Podcast, modified for reading. You can hear the episode here.

In today’s episode, our focus is on spring cleaning the mind. Residents of our minds include thoughts and beliefs. We will focus on our thoughts in today’s episode.

What we think is important, especially what we think repeatedly. As someone said, “Thoughts are like trains. They take us somewhere”, and, as author Bernard Malamud stated, “If your train’s on the wrong track every station you come to is the wrong station.” Pause for a moment. Reflect on a recent thought. Where would it take you, if you followed it all the way through? Would you end up in a healthy place? A God honoring place? Or a place from which you would need to be rescued?

Thoughts have also been likened to seeds. William Wordsworth, an English Poet, (1770-1850) wrote, “Your mind is the garden, your thoughts are the seeds. The harvest can either be flowers or weeds.” 

Thoughts are like trains and thoughts are like seeds. Umm. How many thoughts do you imagine the average person has in one day? In one study published in 2020, researchers in the Department of Psychology, at Queen’s University in Canada, estimated that the average person will typically have more than 6,000 thoughts in a single day.  That is a whole lot of trains and seeds. Clearly, we cannot give attention to every one of these 6,000+ thoughts. So how do we appropriately spring clean our minds so that we do not mistakenly keep what we should discard and discard what we should keep? To spring clean our minds appropriately, we need a way to evaluate our thoughts to determine which thoughts we need to nurture and which we need to stop making space for in our minds.  

Whose criteria will we use to evaluate our thoughts? God’s. He is our Creator and the only One who knows what is best for us. The only One with the authority to define what is good or evil, what is healthy and unhealthy. What needs to be nurtured and what needs to be removed. 

In Philippians 4:8 (AMP) we who are believers, children of God, are given clear instructions regarding the type of thoughts we are to center our minds on and implant in our hearts. Here is the list:

  • whatever is true
  • whatever is honorable and worthy of respect
  • whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, 
  • whatever is pure and wholesome, 
  • whatever is lovely and brings peace
  • whatever is admirable and of good repute
  • if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].”

Whatever is true – How do we know if what we are thinking is true? The answer is, we know that what we are thinking is true if the thought lines up with what God says. For example, if I have the thought that I am worthless, perhaps in response to what others have told me or because of a mistake or a bad habit, I know that it is a lie because of what God says about me. A Scripture based article that beautifully and powerfully highlights what God says about us is, “What God thinks about you” by John Rinehart, the author of Gospel Patrons. The article was published on the Desiring God website, and I recommend reading it in its entirety. I will share an excerpt. 

I am the Creator and you are my creation. I breathed into your nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). I created you in my own image (Genesis 1:27). My eyes saw your unformed substance (Psalm 139:16). I knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). I know the number of hairs on your head, and before a word is on your tongue I know it (Matthew 10:30; Psalm 139:4). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

We are not prisoners to our thoughts. We are enabled by God to choose one thought over another, to redirect our thoughts, to unclutter or spring clean our minds by replacing thoughts that are false with thoughts that are true. We are enabled by God to replace thoughts that are dishonorable and not worthy of respect, with thoughts that are honorable and worthy of respect. To replace thoughts that are wrong and contradict God’s word with thoughts that are right and confirmed by God’s word. To replace thoughts that are impure and unwholesome with thoughts that are pure and wholesome. To replace thoughts that are ugly and cause strife and discontent with thoughts that are lovely and bring peace. To replace thoughts that are deplorable and corrupt with thoughts that are admirable and of good repute (noble, trustworthy). To replace thoughts of mediocrity with thoughts of excellence. To replace thoughts that are not praiseworthy with thoughts that are worthy of praise.

Some thought patterns have been present for so long, they have become automatic but we know that it is possible for our minds to be renewed, a process that transforms us as we are told in Romans 12:2. One of the ways we renew our minds is to change the way we think and two essential strategies for changing the way we think is focused and regular time in prayer and in the Bible, the written Word of God. Time in prayer and in the Word, two essential strategies for changing the way we think. Other strategies include thinking about what we are thinking about and being selective about what we feed our minds and spirits. This may require changes in what we read, listen to, and watch. Spring cleaning our thought life is a process that requires commitment and effort as does the maintenance that is necessary to keep us from re-cluttering our mind. But we have help. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength* is not just a verse to memorize and quote. It is a truth to live by.

*Philippians 4:13